President Mesa Presents New Hydrocarbon Bill

Bolivia's President Carlos Mesa has sent congress a 14-part hydrocarbon bill that includes proposals to return all of the country's hydrocarbon resources to the state, to increase royalties, and to create a new oil regulator, government news agency ABI reported.

YPFB used to be Bolivia's state oil company until it sold off operating units and its role was reduced to that of an aggregator of hydrocarbons for export. The bill would re-nationalize upstream spin-offs Andina and Chaco (now 50% owned by Repsol YPF and BP, respectively) as well as transport company Transredes (which is now owned by pension funds).

The re-nationalization of Andina, Chaco and Transredes "shakes up the country's energy policy. It fundamentally changes the role that the government is perceived as having in the economy and it [changes] the economy in general," newspaper La Razón quoted government minister José Galindo as saying.

The state would own all hydrocarbons at the wellhead, while exploration, production, transport and trading activities could only be carried out either by state companies or by fixed-length concessions.

Royalties, taxes and the state's share of hydrocarbons production would be increased to 50% of the hydrocarbon's value. The country's departments would take 12% of the value of official production, while 6% would go to transport company TGN (which would in turn pass on a percentage of this to Petrobolivia and YPFB for five years), 13% would go to the treasury through a complementary royalty, and 19% would go to the treasury as a royalty.

The new regulator would be called Petrobolivia. It would relieve YPFB of its regulatory and inspection duties, would sign hydrocarbons-related contracts on behalf of the state, and would be the exporter of record for cross-border hydrocarbons sales.

This means that all shared risk concession contracts that YPFB currently holds with private companies would have to be modified accordingly to fit the conditions outlined by the new law. Exploration licenses that are currently producing will be modified on a case-by-case basis to establish corresponding payments.

"If contracts aren't revised, hydrocarbons will not truly return to the state and that needs to made clear to Bolivians. If contracts aren't modified than all the rest is a fantasy," newspaper El Diario quoted congressman Dante Pino, from the Nueva Fuerza Republicana party, as saying.

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